Smile Politely

A break from the mundane

Fred Eaglesmith is playing a special solo matinee show in Urbana this weekend. The Whip at Backland Radio and The Pawn Shop of Rantoul present Canadian Singer/Songwriter Fred Eaglesmith this Saturday, May 9 at 3pm at the Historic Rose Bowl Tavern in Urbana. Special Guest Tif Ginn opens the Mother’s Day Eve concert.

Per press release: “Eaglesmith, a long-standing presence in The Whip’s American Roots format, is a charismatic musician’s musician with fans and listeners all over the world (known as “Fred Heads”).  Over the years the Juno Award-winning artist has had his music used in films by Martin Scorsese, James Caan and Toby Keith, scored a #1 hit on the bluegrass charts (“Thirty Years of Farming,” recorded by James King), and had his songs included in the curriculum at two colleges.”A Break From the Mundane

I’m probably the thousandth person to compare Fred Eaglesmith to Tom Waits, but it can’t be helped. Their aesthetic, lyrics, and style are very similar. That’s not to say, I must stress, that one is a copy of the other. Fred Eaglesmith has a comanding stage presence and gritty, aching sound that will haunt you in wholly fresh ways.

Eaglesmith is a man of few words, but I got a few of them out of him. I’m lucky I got as many as I got, because, judging by his tour schedule, he’s a busy man.


Smile Politely: How did you get interested in music?

Fred Eaglesmith: I saw Elvis on T.V. when I was 10 years old, and he had all these girls and was playing guitar and singing these songs, and I -right then- I knew that’s what I wanted to do. And I went up to my bedroom and I started writing songs that night and I haven’t stopped.

SP: You just went for it! That’s great! What do you love about it?

Eaglesmith: I love it because it liberates me from the mundaneness of cyclical existence.

SP: Do you have other passions? What inspires you?

Eaglesmith: I am passionate about visual arts, mechanics, agriculture and floriculture, farm machinery, vintage musical equipment, Dao, Zen, my children, and my wife.

SP: If you weren’t a musician, what would you likely be doing?

Eaglesmith: Farming.

SP: Who are some of your favorite working artists and why?

Eaglesmith: Most of my artist friends aren’t working.

I must note here that I still don’t know if that means an artist is never working because it’s so pleasurable to create, or an artist can’t find work because it’s difficult. I never got clarification, but I think the non-cynical side of me will take the lighter interpretation.

SP: Do you have any fun/interesting stories from touring or gigs?

Eaglesmith: I closed the U.S./Canadian border once because of a bomb scare in my bus. True. One time we ran out of food in Saskatchewan on our bus and we had to eat the conga player. We choose him because he was a vegetarian. We lost our brakes 8 miles above Denver, Colorado and made it to the bottom, brakeless.

SP: Mmm. Conga player. What would you do with your last $5?

Eaglesmith: I bought three ground lift plugs, a pulley, and a power supply.


That was meant to be a hypothetical, but it seems Mr. Eaglesmith has literally been down to his last five bucks. Good to know he has an exit strategy!

You can catch Fred Eaglesmith and Tif Ginn at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, May 9th at 3 p.m. Advance tickets are $20 and are available online at, at The Pawn Shop in Rantoul, and The Historic Rose Bowl Tavern in Urbana. Tickets at the door are $25 if any are left.

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